Off into happiness
The Journey Begins
Dawn is just breaking over Wyelangta, when I look through the living room window of the little guest house on Vogel’s Farm. It looks like it is going to be a cold, grey and wet autumn day. Not that this is in any way unusual considering the time of year but, I secretly still hope for one more of these warm, sunny days, as we had them just a few weeks ago. In the early mornings back then, I watched the first rays of sunlight paint the whole country golden before revealing the most brilliant greens against the deep blue backdrop of the late summer sky. Birds were singing their joyful songs and a gentle breeze carried the soft, sweet smell of blossoming summer flowers through the air. Back then, the farm life was intense. Except for me, no one had time to sit under a tree, relax and marvel at the beauty of summer’s farewell.
Within only a few weeks, more than a hundred cows have given birth. The roof for the new shed had to be put up before the strong autumn winds kicked in, so that the animals would have sufficient shelter during the cold, wet winter months. Fields required fertiliser and garden vegetables had to be harvested. And all this work came in addition to the usual animal care and milking routine, which by itself takes up the whole day. Long hours and with the help of even the smallest of hands the work got done one step at a time. Bottle feeding the new calves was a kids favourite but, picking tomatoes and cucumbers, and collecting wild blackberries was liked well too by the young farming aspirants.
That evening it seemed, everyone went to bed tired but filled with a deep sense of significance, belonging and gratitude.
When time and energy allowed, the boy’s would go out on early morning deer hunts. Leaving home in the dark, hoping to surprise the animals on their morning grazing patch, the hunters approached their quests thoroughly planned and well prepared. Nonetheless, the hunters were rather unsuccessful; that is, except for Farmer Hans. He brought home a young male deer the only day Hans went out hunting.
That weekend, Susanne, the farmer’s wife prepared a deliciously, juicy venison backstrap from the fresh meat for dinner on Saturday evening. It is her hearty country style cooking, that brings everyone together at one table, and her tireless work behind the scenes that make celebrations like this one even possible and such a joy. An evening where laughter and happiness take over and work takes the backseat; where everyone gets a turn at telling his or her story, where everyone is celebrated as a hero in his own right and where meaningful conversations amongst friends have just as much a place as the odd joke, moments of silence and tempered discussions. That evening it seemed, everyone went to bed tired but filled with a deep sense of significance, belonging and gratitude.
Dairy farming doesn’t know day’s off but on Sundays and public holidays work is kept to a minimum even at the busiest of times. Once a week the hours between milking are kept free for hobbies, personal interests and jaunts. My absolute favourite outing was the trip to Johanna Beach. Soft sand, powerful waves and a pleasant cool breeze – the best place for a Sunday sunset picnic. The kids were playing on the beach, everyone bathing their feet in the cool waters of the Tasman Sea whilst watching the sun setting over the Great Otway.
Meanwhile, winter is approaching, and the more common weather for this part of Victoria seems to have set to stay. Temperatures have dropped significantly and even the heated indoors feels chilly. The wind, squeezing through every cranny of the small unit, is too strong an opponent for the warmth of the little fire that has been flickering in the hearth the entire night. Outside, thick fog is rushing from the dark forest, over a green field towards the house. In complete absence of sound, ghost-like creatures constantly changing their shape hastening towards me. Captivated by the mystical movements of the mist in the cool light of the early morning hours I stare at the delusional scenery. A quick shiver races down my back. It still gives me the creeps despite having observed this very same scenario almost daily for the past week. I move closer to the window. Slowly, I press one hand against the cold glass. The condensed water droplets on the window are slowly searching for a way around my hand. Outside, the seemingly shy, grey-white creatures hurtle towards me. I am not quite sure if they are haunted or simply just dancing. A thin white hand is hesitantly reaching out to me. I hold my breath… Then, it dissolves into nothingness. Reflexively, I pull my hand back and step away from the window. My heart is racing
Slightly shaken, I blink a few times when suddenly, the cold tranquillity is broken by quick, short footsteps on the wooden floor. Sounds like the Limacher’s are getting out of bed. Still in their pyjamas the older two children are giggling, chasing each other through the rooms whilst the rest of the family is getting ready for the day. Buzzy as always, mornings are a noisy and fast paced affair at ours but things seem even more lively today. A different vibe is in the air. I sense excitement. No wonder, today is supposed to be THE day! The day I am so eagerly anticipating! The day we all have been postponing for the past weeks! Preparing for all sorts of eventualities has kept us busy and pushed our travel dates further and further out. Sometimes leaving me wondering whether we ever would take on our big journey around Australia. It seems we enjoy our time on Vogel’s farm so much, that we no longer want to leave. Or is it the many unknowns and potential challenges that hold us back? Living in the confined space of a caravan for extended time proves challenging for the strongest of relationships but adding three young children and a wooden travel companion to the equation and a holiday quickly turns into a 24/7 job. Further, not knowing where home will be after the big tour and how long the whole trip will take might make it just that little bit harder to let go of the comfort of the known and familiar. I must admit, even I feel somewhat emotional when I think about having to leave. After all, Vogel’s Farm is the place where I have become paart of what appears to be an experience of a lifetime. But then, life doesn’t happen in the past and great things only ever grow outside one’s comfort zone. Furthermore, the latest changes in weather and the temperature drop don’t appeal to me at all. I guess from my end no further contemplating is required. I feel more ready than ever to set off and explore the vastness and diversity of Australia. Let’s hope my family feels the same.
So far things are looking promising. Everyone has finished breakfast, and now the kids are packing their toys and move them -one little bag after another- into the caravan. They’ve never done this before so, I have good reason to keep my hopes up.
Two loaves of homemade bread are baking and the granola is mixed, ready to get roasted as soon as the bread comes out of the oven. Mum Franziska is emptying the cupboards and packs the contents into different boxes. Due to the space constraints as well as weight limits for safe towing of the caravan, only selected items can come with us on our big journey. Everything else will have to remain in temporary storage on the farm. Dad Stephan is once again checking car and caravan to make sure everything is working as expects and ready for the long drive. Everything indicates that they are serious about leaving today.
It is just past 11am when suddenly things are slowing down – even worse – going backwards! Franziska has taken one bag back out of the car and starts unpacking. Please don’t let it be true; don’t let them change their mind… Oh, …it’s just the sandwiches for the children. Apparently, they are hungry and since there still a few more tasks to be completed before we can leave, it’s certainly wise to keep the kids happy.
At 2pm Stephan and Franziska are still moving boxes. Another two hours pass before eventually, everything is where it is supposed to be. The apartment is empty and clean. But is it too late to leave? It will be dark in only two hours. Maybe we should spend the first night in the caravan at home to confirm that things are working as expected? Leaving early tomorrow morning would further come with the advantage of daytime travelling. An important consideration in Australia, where wildlife tends to be very active between dusk and dawn, and frequently causes serious road accidents.
After a short discussion amongst the family, we decide to take the leap and leave regardless. We all agree, rather to travel a short distance than not at all. We can always stop but the longer we stay, the less time we will have to live our dream.
So, the kids get strapped into their safety seats. Emotional goodbyes, last hugs and just one more hunting plan amongst the boys for when we return, before we get rolling. Where to? Geographically speaking: around Australia but the actual route we don’t really know yet. Emotionally though, everyone is clear about the next destination: Off into happiness!
Off into happiness!
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